She dressed in a figure-hugging outfit and bolero-style jacket that did her no favours. Her make-up was intentionally thick and acted as a mask. Her feet were clad in thin ballet pumps and a fixed, toothy smile adorned her face. She had scraped back her hair into a tight ponytail and crammed it all into a black hat. The recent de-fuzz session ensured that she was not considered for the job of bearded lady any more and as for the painted lady character, well... she was in the process of saving up for the next tattoo.
She had to go out and face everyone yet again. She had no choice as she was the only one who could do the job properly. From her position in her dressing room she could hear the roar of the crowd even from this distance. She just wanted a few minutes more but took a deep breath and headed out backstage.
As the ringmaster - the most visible performer - she stage-managed that day’s performance with military precision. She checked that she had all her own equipment, the animals were fed and watered and, with suitable hyperbole, ushered the cast into the public arena. The crowd reacted as they always did and showed their appreciation. But now was the time for the real performance to begin.
She climbed the ladder to the highest vantage point and stood on the small ledge acknowledging the presence of her right-hand man. She pointed one foot forward and felt for the narrow width of the high wire. She held out her right hand and her assistant placed the pointed stick against her palm; she gripped it, firmly. In the other hand, her assistant arranged three coloured balls. She was ready.
Showing no outward nerves, she focused on a spot directly in front of her and tentatively balanced on the half-inch metal wire. She heard the sharp intake of breath from the onlookers and relaxed slightly. This is what she had worked up to over the past twenty years and was used to the way the audience always reacted. It spurned her on. She held the stick upright and nodded her head slightly. Her assistant threw a specially designed plate towards the stick, deftly caught it and started spinning it with a careful flick of the wrist. She took another two steps forward, constantly ensuring that her centre of gravity was above the wire. As she gained in confidence she started to throw the three balls in her left hand... catching, throwing, catching, throwing... juggling.
She knew she had to have different rhythmic co-ordination in separate parts of her body and that is what she had perfected over time. There was no-one else who could do this quite like her and she knew it. The rush of adrenalin was her drug of choice and she loved being the centre of attention - just for a few minutes anyway - and she knew that the balancing wasn't the difficult part- it's only a matter of physics, after all - it's concentrating on everything else around you and not being distracted...
Funambulism - the art of walking along a thin wire or rope
Photo credit: Inga Photograpy on Flickr
I have written this to try out an idea... I think it needs expanding on as this is how I feel every single day..
The One-Woman Circus
The circus = my life
The cast = my children
The assistant = my husband
The tightrope = the fine line I am currently walking
The plate and the juggling balls = the tasks I undertake
The crowd = everyone else outside of the family